Apr 13, 2009

Im All Right Jack

That’s Ian Carmichael and Liz Frazer in I’m All Right Jack. Unlike The Naked Truth, there are naked people in this one. It opens and closes in a British nudist camp, but in between everybody keeps their clothes on. Since this is the tail end of the 1950s it’s really very mild.

Ian Carmichael’s character is a naive graduate of Oxford, who is looking for a job. At first he looks for executive positions, but soon discovers that his commonsense approach is out of favor in the business world. He is then persuaded to take a job as a common laborer. His manners are too polite to enable him to be readily accepted as a regular bloke, so the union members, i.e., his work mates, decide he must be a time and motion guy. He’s not, and the real time and motion man tries to observe him. Ian is delighted with his job running a forklift, and shows the time and motion man how the forklift can move two, three, or even four palettes at a time. Well, this doesn’t go over well with the union. If they move more than one palette at a time, the job will be over quicker, or the plant will need fewer workers. So it’s not in the union’s interest to lose jobs. It is, of course, in management’s interests to cut costs.

It is here that the union movement, while radical in politics, is conservative. Innovative technology, or even commonsense methodologies, that can cut costs by reducing labor is opposed because it causes a temporary dislocation of labor.

In the movie an element of fraud is introduced in that the company wins a contract, but then due to labor conditions, precipitated by Carmichael, and in collusion with a foreign government and a supposedly competing firm, arranges for the contract to go elsewhere.

It has something in common with another British film of the same era, The Man in the White Suit. In this film Alec Guiness plays a British chemist who is searching for a way to make the perfect fabric. He stumbles across the right formula, but the unions realize that if anyone can buy an indestructible, non-soilable suit, they will eventually lose their jobs. (As I said unions are inherently resistant to technological innovation.) Mill owners realize that if fabric doesn’t wear out, nobody will buy new clothes. Now that point is not quite realistic, at least as regards fashion, but it has some validity to it with regards to other products.

I’m All Right Jack is a fun, amusing film that’s worth seeing. See it and The Man in the White Suit.